Out of numbers!

10-digit dialing, new (sort of) area code are signs of the times

I f you’re now getting a message when you try to dial a seven-digit local number, telling you to add the area code and turn it into a 10-digit number, there’s a simple explanation.

We’re running out of numbers.

No, really. It’s all tied up with the explosion in demand for new numbers spawned by the technology revolution. You know, everyone over the age of five now has a cell phone and some of them will actually make and receive calls.

Because of the demand, area codes have become much more important. There are many more possible combinations of numbers with 10 digits than with seven. So, 10-digit calling for everything began to be phased in last December and it became mandatory on Saturday.

Along with that, numbers in a new area code, 737, are now being assigned. And you may get one. This area code change is different from any that have happened before.

Previously, a new area code was simply carved out of an existing one. This has happened several times in our 512 code, which is one of Texas’s original area codes.

This time the 737 numbers will be assigned in what’s called an “overlying” area code. That means they will be in the same geographic location as 512 which is realistically defined as “Austin Metro and a bunch of smaller places.”

So, if you get a new number in the area code we’ve always been in, you could end up with a “512” or a “737.” There’s no real way to know until it happens.

By the way, 512 is the last of Texas’s original area codes to be split, even if the split doesn’t involve taking any territory away from it.

The 512 code used to be much larger, extending over all of South Texas. But San Antonio got its own code, 210, and then about a dozen years ago, the Corpus Christi area became 361.

Rockdale is still at a location where three area codes meet. Just to the north is 254 (Cameron) and just to the south is 979 (Lexington.)

Maybe it’s time to invent some new numerals and put them between 9 and 10?—MB

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2013-06-13 digital edition

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